Amonkhet: Playing To Your Weaknesses – Artifacts, Multicolor, and Land
NOTE: “Playing to your Weaknesses” is a series of articles I have been doing on my own blog since Avacyn Restored that cover all of the uncommons and commons in a new expansion and which ones I would choose to use as one of the 23 cards in a 40 card limited deck. For those of you uninitiated to limited, it simply means sealed and booster draft, where you open packs and then proceed to make a deck out of them. I’ve purposely left out the rare cards because it is much more likely that you’ll see multiples of uncommon and commons in your packs/pools.)
As for my rating system, after a lot of feedback I’ve decided to abandon my 3 tier scoring system of Low-Medium-High and I will instead be moving onto a 5 star ranking system. The system is as follows:
- 1 star = a card that is barely playable, even as filler for your deck
- 2 stars = this card could be a strong sideboard card, but is highly conditional and not always effective
- 3 stars = a 3 star card is a solid role-player. These cards could be less than amazing removal effects, or a creature that is a glass cannon (high power, low defense). They could be good except for a few flaws.
- 4 stars = Here’s where we get into the powerhouses. 4 Stars could be good finishers, or cards that can end a game if left unchecked. They also have multiple effects, and are all around good value for you. The only thing holding them back is restrictive costs or some small drawback.
- 5 stars = you won’t see a lot of these at common and uncommon. These will usually be your rares and mythics because they are incredibly bonkers. Planeswalkers, massive creatures, etc., these are the cards you could build a deck around.
I’m starting to feel some evaluation fatigue after 5 articles in rapid succession, but today’s article is the last one so I’ll push through it. There are only a few artifacts and lands to talk about, and slightly more multicolor cards to go over. After that’s all said and done, I’ll post some results from my pre-release as well pictures of my deck builds, explain my choices, and talk about what worked well and what didn’t. Let’s get started with the smallest amount of evaluations first, Lands.
Evolving Wilds is good in pretty much any limited format. It allows you to splash a 3rd color more easily, but also helps you to filter out your lands so your draws become stronger later on. If you’re looking at your 5th-6th pick in draft and don’t see anything amazing, it never hurts to pick up an Evolving Wilds. Solid pick in draft any time. Especially good if you want to throw in one of the split cards or a multicolor card that only matches one of your colors.
RATING: 3.5 Stars
Painted Bluffs isn’t as strong as Evolving Wilds due to the mana investment to make a different color, but late game Painted Bluffs is much better, especially if you have multiple splashed cards or effects that need a 3rd color. I’d take an Evolving Wilds first in draft, but Painted Bluffs would be fine to get as your 6th-7th pick as well.
RATING: 3 Stars
It sucks that you have to use Grasping Dunes’ ability at sorcery speed, but it gives removal-lite decks another way to get rid of troublesome creatures, especially after combat. You attack, they block, then you set your land and put a -1/-1 counter on it to kill it. Out of all of the non basic lands, I found myself playing this most often in the pre-release. Also good in GB counter decks if you’re looking for some more cards to synergize with that strategy.
RATING: 3 Stars
With all of the pro-zombie cards in Amonkhet limited (Lord of the Accursed and Liliana’s Mastery for example), Cradle of the Accursed should find its way into a large number of white or black decks that are looking ot push the zombie synergy. It didn’t always make the cut in my limited decks, but if I was playing BW or a token based deck it was in there.
RATING: 3 Stars
The monuments performed above and beyond what I expected them to during the pre-release. I only had a chance to play with Oketra’s and Hazoret’s Monument, but played against Rhonas’s. We all know that limited decks are usually going to run 13-16 creatures on average, which means that you can get quite a lot of activations from each of these, especially if you play it on turn 3.
Oketra’s Monument was my favorite because of the sheer number of creatures it gave you. In a well put together W/x swarm strategy, you could create a large number of tokens then play an anthem effect to strike for lethal in one turn. I did just that in a RW exert and BW Tokens strategy during pre-release weekend.
While green might not be as popular as black and white, Rhonas’s Monument made any creature in play an absolute beast. Suddenly your 2/2 is a 4/4 trample, or your 3/5 camel was a 5/7 trampler. It was like having a combat trick every turn and when I played against it I suffered. I either lost a lot of my creatures trying to kill the creature it buffed up, or I lost a big chunk of my life. Powerful card in limited.
As for Hazoret’s Monument, it provided me with a lot of card advantage late game in a BR deck I built with a lot of cards that got bonuses from discarding or cycling. I was able to discard all my extra lands and draw through my deck while also pumping up my creatures to attack. Very interesting card that does a lot of work in those type of decks.
I didn’t have a chance to see Kefnet’s Monument, but it seems great in an aggressive deck, even if you’re not playing blue. It taps down a creature and puts them to “sleep” for a turn, making it easier for your creatures to push through damage. I could see it doing very well in a UW flyer or UG deck with a lot of big creatures that are tough to block.
Oketra’s Monument – RATING: 3.5 Stars
Rhonas’s Monument – RATING: 3.5 Stars
Hazoret’s Monument – RATING: 3 Stars
Kefnet’s Monunment – RATING 3 Stars
This card was an absolute pain to play against, especially if you didn’t have a lot of creatures on the board at the time and are trying to put pressure on an opponent. It’s incredibly powerful for an uncommon and works well in just about every deck. It stops those big nasty creatures from attacking when you first play it, but after 3 activations it turns into a reusable Arrest effect. I think it will be a very high draft pick, and might even go first sometimes. You can’t go wrong with a reusable removal effect!
RATING: 4 Stars
With all of the Embalm effects and other spells that bring cards that effect the graveyard, I think that Watchers of the Dead is main deckable, even if you’re playing a lot of those effects yourself. If your opponent has a Liliana, Death’s Majesty you definitely don’t want her to have access to a packed graveyard. I wouldn’t always play it, but I would consider it for one of those last spots and all I had left were other 2/2 “bears”.
RATING: 3 Stars
God-Pharaoh’s Gift isn’t even in this set, so you can totally disregard the second part of this card. The main focus is the life gain and looting effect that you get. If you’re looking for a way to get some card advantage or to optimize your cards that get bonuses or activations from discarding (such as Drake Haven), then Gate to the Afterlife is for you. I could see it working very well in UB or BR discard builds.
RATING: 2.5 Stars
As I have done before with Multicolor cards, I’ll be focusing both on playability in their colors as well as if the cards are splashable.
By far one of the strongest aggro cards in AKH Limited. Red and white already has a lot of strong exert effects that effect your entire team such as Trueheart Twins and Tah-Crop Elite, and if you add Honored Crop-Captain into that mix you get the ability to end your opponent in one turn. Any kind of evasion or a swarm of tokens ensures that you’re going to be doing a lot of damage, if not killing your opponent in one turn. Honored Crop-Captain brings the pain. I’d splash it for aggressive or swarm decks.
RATING: 3.5 Stars
I’ve already established how rampant tokens are in this format between token makers and embalm, so it’s only natural that I recommend Aven Wind Guide to make those cards even better. Back in white and blue I said that flyers were going to be really good in AKH limited and I stick by that statement. Giving all of your embalmed creatures, zombie, or warrior tokens flying puts your opponent on a quickly winding down clock. If your opponent can’t deal with the Wind Guide, you should be able to finish them off quickly. While UW gives you access to the highest number of embalm effects, I think it’s worth a splash because realistically you’ll want to be playing white and black to have access to more removal spells. Black has a large number of token makers as well, so an esper strategy gives you the most options.
RATING: 3.5 Stars
If RW Exert has the Captain and UW Embalm has the Wind Guide as their champions, then GB counters has Decimator Beetle. There is no shortage of -1/-1 counter effects in green and black, and Decimator lets you turn each one into a barb of weakening shrapnel for your opponent’s creatures when it attacks. While its prospects for splashing aren’t as good as the other two, I wouldn’t totally write it off in a BR/g or BW/g 3 color deck that has a few -1/-1 counter effects. High pick if you decide to go GB in limited.
RATING: 3 Stars
Black/Red’s ‘champion’ works really good with those colors’ discard/cycle effect bonuses, and is an amazing card if you end up mana flooding and have nothing but land. Her ability is also colorless, which means that she’s a prime candidate for splashing. I could see her doing a lot of work in a UB deck playing Drake Haven, and even in a WB zombie/token deck that can get use from embalming cards after they’ve been discarded. That 2 toughness is a problem though, as well as the 4 mana casting cost. It’s the reason why I can only give 3 stars to an otherwise stellar card.
RATING: 3 Stars
You can’t really consider Wayward Servant to be BW’s champion, but he definitely is great in WB zombie decks. You should have no problem finding enough zombies in those colors to make the Servant’s ability effective. Playing Liliana’s Mastery or Stir the Sands with this card make it a lot better, and it would also be somewhat playable in a UB or UW deck that’s heavy on the embalm effects which create zombies. That being said, it’s still a 2/2 for 2 mana, which won’t win you any games by itself.
RATING: 3 Stars
I really want to say that the other 4 offerings are good for their colors, but I think they’re highly situational and would probably be better in draft than in sealed. For exampl, Enigma Drake could be really good in a deck that has lots of instants and sorceries, but you’d probably have to have creature token makers like Stir the Sands in a Grixis build so that you’re not overrun by your opponent’s creatures. Sweltering Suns might also help though. You’d be lucky to make it a 3/4 during a match, but rarely will it be a 5/4 or higher. Cycling helps, but it really depends on your pool.
I like Khenra Charioteer with exert effects, and if your pool is there with lots of high power creatures it can be really strong. However, I think I’d want even more anthem effects like the ones that white has, so I think it would be better with Tah-Crop Elite or Honored Crop-Captain. It’s defintely a card that gets better from being splashed.
Ahn-Crop Champion is a little better since it has a 4/4 body and is harder to block, but again I think it would be better in WR with more anthem effects. White has some amazing exert effects as well as red, so if I were to play the Champion it would be in Naya colors.
Weaver of Currents creates 2 mana which is great if you want to speed out your big finishers like Scaled Behemoth early, or if you want to cast a costly embalm creature from your graveyard. However it only makes colorless mana, and its 2/2 body isn’t something that can survive long against constant pressure from an opponent or any kind of removal. It’s not something I’d want to draw late game on an empty board.
Enigma Drake – RATING: 3 Stars
Khenra Charioteer – RATING: 3 Stars
Ahn-Crop Champion – RATING: 3 Stars
Weaver of Currents – RATING: 2.5 Stars
My last two multicolored cards, Start/Finish and Spring/Mind, are the only split cards that I think are worth taking early in draft. Start gives you 2 creatures at instant speed and a removal spell with Finish, while Spring is great for mana fixing and draws your 2 cards late game when you really need it. Both are splashable and worth putting that 3rd color into your deck to get the extra benefit for their aftermath cost. The only one that might be difficult to cast is Mind if you’re playing blue as your third color.
Start/Finish – RATING: 3.5 Stars
Spring/Mind – RATING: 3 Stars
Other Cards that Will See Play
- Bontu’s Monument – If you’re playing Bontu and Tresspasser’s Curse, you could really pile on the damage with creatures whenever you play one, sacrifice one, or when the other player puts one into play. Great if the synergy is there.
- Embalmer’s Tools – I’d consider playing it if I had lots of embalming effects in my deck that I’d want to use quickly like Angel of Sanctions’.
- Shadowstorm Vizier – I don’t know. It just seems underwhelming. Might be better in draft than sealed though if you have lots of discard/cycling effects.
- Onward/Victory – I might consider playing this in an aggressive deck if I’m looking for some combat tricks and have an extra slot in my limited deck.
After my horrible outing with Aether Revolt a few months ago, I was feeling quite unsure of myself and my limited skills. Was I not evaluating cards correctly anymore? Were my limited fundamentals getting rusty? Thankfully after 3 tournaments I can say that wasn’t the case.
My first event was a 60 person midnight pre-release at Prinny Club near Kanayama station here in Nagoya which is close to my apartment. I had some good removal in black but no creatures to go along with it, and in blue pretty much all of my cards were small creatures that had synergies with instants and sorceries, but nothing that I could win a game with. With my removal options limited, I decided to go with this RW deck and focus more on combat tricks and speed.
I had a total of 6 Exert creatures and 4 anthem type effects. Thanks to cards like Bloodrage Brawler and Ahn-Crop Crasher I could attack early and deal some damage, and after building up my board the anthem effects and exert effects enabled me to finish games efficiently. I went 3-0 at this first pre-release event, beating a Bant deck 2-0, a Temur deck 2-1, and a GW Embalm deck 2-0. The curve was great and allowed me to create board presences early and set the pace of the game. The all stars of this deck were Tah-Crop Elite (thanks to their flying and exert ability that made all of my creatures bigger) and Emberhorn Minotaur (which let me put pressure on my opponent whenever I exerted him and make them worried about combat tricks the whole time).
The following afternoon I took part in my second Amonkhet pre-release, which had a total of 52 players. I opened a foil Gideon of the Trials in my first pack, and from there on out I was sure I was going to play black/white. The deck was able to make a lot of tokens and also had a strong zombie subtheme with Lord of the Accursed. While Gideon was able to deal damage from time to time and shut down my opponent’s most powerful creatures, cards like Bontu the Glorified and Glory-Bound Initiate helped to keep me alive while I developed an army of tokens with Oketra’s Monument. Once I had enough tokens, I would more often than not used In Oketra’s Name to pump up all of my tokens and zombies to hit the other players for lethal.
The BW deck started off really strong, beat another BW deck 2-1, a GB deck 2-1, another BW deck 2-1, and a UR deck 2-0. Sideboarding in a Trespasser’s Curse became almost second nature in each of these games, and coupled with Bontu made it really hard on my opponents. Between Bontu draining my opponents or using In Oketra’s Name for a lethal alpha strike, there was little my opponents could do to stop me. It wasn’t until round 5 that I started having trouble. One of the best players in Nagoya had put together a great UB deck that gave him lots of card advantage, countered my important spells, and have removal for everything else. Most of his attacks were from flyers which made it hard for me to deal with and I lost 1-2.
In round 6 I had planned to ID with my opponent, but after playing one match for what I thought was for fun until the slips arrived, he decided to change his mind and play for real in game 2. I had let my guard down in game 1 and was at a severe disadvantage game 2 after he changed his mind, so I ended up losing and falling to 4-2. The match was winnable, but I was under the impression we would ID so I didn’t take it as seriously. I ended up in 9th place for this tournament. Boo.
I had a somewhat deep pool on Sunday at my final pre-release tournament with 33 players, but at this point my karma had run out. I didn’t manage to open any good bombs, but I did have good synergy with these two decks. The BR discard/cycling deck was the stronger of the two, but the GW Deck wasn’t that bad either. GW had better removal, but BR was able to hit harder and had a great card advantage/discard engine with Hazoret’s Monument.
I tried out both decks in round one against an opponent that matched me with a BR deck game 1 and then changed to Bant tokens game 2. It was almost like playing a mirror match, but he had superior cards in his Bant deck (such as Scaled Behemoth and Vizier of Many Faces) which led us to a draw after we split a game apiece thanks to a long game. I beat a Naya deck in round 2, but lost to a Temur deck round 3 due to switching back to my GW tokens deck. From there on out I stayed with BR and lost to a BW deck that had Anointed Procession, Liliana, Death’s Majesty, and Stir the Sand 0-1-1, but beat a UG deck in round 5 to finish 2-2-1.
Overall I liked the BR deck and felt it had the tools to keep getting value from the various cycling/discard effects, as well as having a long game with Hazoret’s Monument keeping my from land flooding. If anything, I probably should have splashed white in order to give me a few more removal choices.
Until Next Time
Well that does it for my Playing to Your Weakness articles. I hope you did well and enjoyed playing the format. I know I did, and I feel very satisfied with a 9-4-1 record. The limited format is very exciting and not as bomb dependent as past ones have been. I can see myself playing a lot of booster drafts with this set. It’s challenging to build the decks, but not as hard to play them as other formats have been. It’s more about solid deck building than knowing how to abuse and take advantage of the new abilities. Synergies are supreme, and almost nothing automatically says “I win”. If you have any stories from your pre-releases or any comments on the cards I mentioned (or didn’t mention), feel free to post them down below. Thanks again for reading.